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The Insiders View of How I Launched My New Ebook

Updated: I’ve added a few quick updates on how the launch has gone at the bottom of this post.

Over on my main blog – Digital Photography School – we have today launched our first ever ebook – The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography.

We’re launching with a 25% discount so if you’re interested in improving your portrait photography it’s well worth checking out – however I thought I’d jot down a few notes in a post here about some of the process that I’ve been through in putting the ebook together. I’ve been documenting the launch (and pre-launch) in the ProBlogger.com forums for weeks now but here are a few of the reflections I’ve made condensed into one post.

The ebook came about largely out of a lot of emails from readers who were either:

  • asking for information on portraits
  • asking for recommendations of books/resources on portraits
  • asking for us to pull some of our best posts together into a condensed form


Much of the content in this ebook is previously posted content from the DPS blog. We’ve published hundreds of posts on the topic of portraits so the challenge was pulling together the best of it, updating it and editing it so that it read better in an ebook rather than as blog posts. I also commissioned some extra content on topics that were lacking a little and also approached 6 Pro Photographers to be interviewed for the Bonus Section.

The other challenge was finding images for the ebook. Most of them were found from Creative Commons commercially available images on Flickr

Bonus Section

As mentioned above – I decided to approach a number of photographers to get their input on this ebook. They were largely I had relationship with previously and I did it for a number of reasons. Firstly I think it improves the book and adds a dimension not already in it with just the ‘theory’ in the first section. The interviews bring in other voices and also practical examples of portrait photography.

Secondly it brings in some credibility – most of those chosen have names in the industry and this helps sell the book to have them associated with the project.

Thirdly – having a ‘bonus’ adds value and gives extra motivation to buyers.


One of our writers on DPS (Neil Creek) is married to a great designer (Naomi from StarFishBlue) who I commissioned to pull together this ebook. Naomi pulled together all the content and images and also arranged for the book to be professionally proofread.


I’m using E-junkie (aff) to serve the ebook and act as shopping cart. I’ve chosen ejunkie largely based upon my experience with it with the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook. While not the most feature rich option out there I find it more than adequate for my needs and considering it only costs me $5 to set up an account it’s a bargain.


This is the first ebook that we’ve sold from DPS so the waters are untested to some degree as to how the community will respond. I’ve been building a little buzz about it for a month or so now, mainly in our weekly newsletters but also in passing in a few of our posts and on Twitter.

Over the weekend just gone I did a bit of a preview launch on Twitter to do some testing and gather a little feedback on the product. The feedback was useful and has been really positive and we also sold 50 or so of the books which basically means that all my expenses are already covered for the book before even launching it (always a relief).

Today we’re launching with a multi pronged approach including:

  • Email to our Community – an email has just been sent out to our newsletter list
  • Post on the DPS blog – this went live about an hour ago
  • Forum Members – we’ll push out some promotions in our forums in the coming day
  • Twitter – we won’t push it too hard on Twitter as we’ve already tweeted it a few times and don’t want to go overboard but we will tweet it a bit today
  • Facebook – the DPS community on Facebook is pretty active so it’ll go live there
  • Affiliates – I have a few people signed up already to promote the ebook as affiliates (by the way if you’d like to join the affiliate program you can do so via e-junkie here).
  • ‘Favours’ – I’m pulling in a few owed favours today with some fellow bloggers and Twitter users.

In the coming week or two we’ll do a few followup promotions – particularly towards the end of the week when we end the 25% discount.

And Now We Wait…. and Adapt

Now comes the part of the process where the product is launched and I wait…. nervously wondering if anyone will buy it and if all the effort has been worthwhile? Like I say above – we’ve already pretty much broken even on the project in terms of the dollars put into it but it’d be great for it to sell well so that we can push some of the income back into DPS an keep improving the site.

Time will tell how it goes! I’ll update you in the coming week or so.

PS: Anyone want to buy a great portrait photography ebook at 25% off? ;-)

It’s been just over 12 hours since the launch of the ebook and we’ve sold another 950 of the books (total of just under 1000 sold).

There have been a few hiccups with a few people having troubles with downloads or not being able to use PayPal (you get this with almost any launch you do) but all in all it’s been a great launch.

This is the first product that I’ve personally launched on DPS so it was a bit of an unknown as to how many people would buy. 1000 sales in 24 hours is good, I’m very happy with it. Of course it’d be great for it to be higher (considering we have 250k in our email list who got the email it sometimes feels like a pretty low response) but I expect that in the week ahead we’ll see the number grow quite a bit as new promotions go out.

We’re yet to see affiliates promote it much yet so that’ll bring a kick along and I’m yet to promote it in our forum and with some banners around the site. Later in the week I’ll do a reminder (24 hours to go on the discount) type promotion email which I expect will convert well too.

Interestingly this morning I had two publishers email me to see if we’re interested in publishing the ebook as a real book – that’ll be something I’ll ponder in the coming weeks.

Other than that – at this point I’m still working on promoting the ebook to potential affiliates and other bloggers in the niche and responding to customers with downloading/payment issues.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Darren,

    Good luck. I like your simple approach. What about a Press Release? Ever used those and they’ve worked?


    • Andrew – thanks for the reminder about a press release. It’s something I don’t use a lot of but it can actually help. Thanks for the reminder – adding it to my list!

  2. Darren,

    I love this plan and will keep it on flike for a few 2010 launches on my end.

    I have to ask the obvious here.

    Since you’ve been promoting both products from Yaro and Brian Clark on membership sites, how come you have not set-up a membership site?

    The same applies for your ebook on blogging.

    >>> I have 2 questions for you Darren on your launch:

    1) Why have you chosen the ebook route as opposed to a membership site?

    2) Why ejunkie and not Clickbank where there are a lot of affiliates?



    • Eat Smart Age Smart – Good question – on the membership site thing, the problem with doing that on DPS is that we already have a free forum. While its a great part of the site in hindsite I wish I’d set it up with a paid component from day 1 as starting to charge for it or some part of it now will always be difficult. It is something I still do hope to move towards at some point but at this stage we’re just exploring ebooks/products/

      E-junkie – I’ve decided to go with it at this stage mainly because it’s cheap and works. We’re not going to push the affiliate marketing thing too much as we already have a pretty big audience so we don’t need to find too many new affiliates.

  3. Darren,
    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I am planning on releasing my first e-book on my blog before the end of the year as well.

    My question for you concerns copyright issues. How do you make sure people don’t copy an e-book, forward it in emails to their friends, post it for download on twitter, other social media, or their own blogs?

    Maybe you can be of some help here?

    Thanks and good luck with the book.

    • Preston – ultimately you can’t control if someone sends it onto a friend.

      I chatted with a few more experienced sellers of ebooks recently and they said that they used to password protect pdfs in an attempt to stop this but in the end they found it didn’t have much impact.

      Ultimately you’ve just got to trust that people do the right thing and that when they don’t that you’re having your ebook put into the hands of someone who probably wouldnt have bought it anyway and who you then have an opportunity to make an impression on.

  4. No traffic exchange? Maybe can do a splash page to get mailing list from interested persons surfing manual traffic exchanges.

  5. I think you’re ideas for marketing, as well as how you made the ebook are GREAT. And you are a reputable person, so I would by an ebook from you any day. The problem is, I don’t do portrait photography. Do another digital photography book and I’ll buy it!

    krissy knox :)
    connect w me on twitter:

  6. Thanks for sharing the process with us. I’ve been writing content across eight sites for some time now, and ghost writing a few projects, in that time I’ve acquired a lengthy archive of great content. Inspired by Chris Brogan, I’m kicking off my newsletter in December to a list I’ve gathered over the past two years.

    I’m using the newsletter to promote my own upcoming ebook which I have been in the process of putting together these last two months. I’m looking at launching the ebook in January or February, and hopefully use that to inform, educate, assist, and build relationships with new people.

    Your process just further solidified my determination to make my ebook happen. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences and providing insight into how it came together for you.

  7. Best of luck Darren, i’m sure even this will be as successful as 31dbbb. Hope someday even i get to sell 16000 copies.

  8. How can personalization of eBooks be achieved? At times, when I buy one, every page is personalized with my name and email adress. I like that. It’s so much better than any “DRM”.

  9. Very nice Darren you know I found you through PB but started reading DPS shortly after because I love photography as well. So congrats on your book, and thanks!

  10. Thank you for this post. What I liked the best was your list of how you have and will be promoting the e-book because that is a challenge that scares me.

    I have one question, do you think it’s better for a blog to launch a paid e-book once it has a high subscriber / daily visitor count or do you think if marketed enough it could be worth it?

    My blog is less than a month old, I average 400 unique visitors a day with about 135 RSS subscribers so I’m thinking people buying an e-book from me wouldn’t happen just yet. Heck, they might not even download a free one.

    • Justine – I think you’ll sell more if you already have readers but I don’t see a problem of releasing it early on and making a few $’s while you build your readership.

      I talked to one blogger a few weeks ago who has similar sized blog to you who has an ebook – he makes a few hundred dollars a month, not bad considering his ad revenue is less than a quarter of that.

  11. You were lucky that you knew someone that could get you a good design and set up everything nicely. Making it look professionally done is the number one thing to do especially since people will feel like they are actually reading a real book.

  12. You managed to break even at less than $750 (50 units at 14.95$) ? I would’ve thought it costs more to do an E-book. I guess my costing differs from yours as i tend to account for opportunity cost, contingency cost etc…

    Why do you keep offering refunds darren? That just puts me off. If i was sure of my product and knew it was no BS product, why did i have to go for refund offers? I’m not suggesting yours is BS, certainly not. I’ve read your 31 days blog book and its quite useful to say the least. But i think you are underestimating or devaluing your own gems. Its one thing to be humble and genuine, and quite another to be stupid and devaluing one’s own assets. I honestly feel you should stop offering refunds. Think about it. I am likely to buy if someone offered me a NO refund. Imagine Rolls Royce offering a refund, its just stupid.

    Good luck with the book :-)

    • Nibras – as I said – it broke even purely on a financial basis (ie how much I outlaid).

      Refunds – for me it’s about ease of mind and giving people something extra. For me a money back guarantee is another ‘bonus’ that people get, adds value for some people. I’ve tested it in promoting affiliate promotions with and without them and people seem much more likely to buy if they have such a guarantee.

      Interestingly when I did it on the 31 Days ebook – less than 10 people asked for their money back yet quite a few people told me that they bought it because they knew they could get a refund if they didn’t find it helpful.

  13. Hi Darren,

    I recently published my first ebook as well (I’m a holistic health counselor) and am interested in offering an affiliate program but was wondering if there are general guidelines on the percent of the sale you offer to your affiliate for promoting your book?
    I know this is probably highly personal and variable, but also didn’t know where to go to just get a sense of what is done out there. Would you consider sharing what you are offering your affiliates?
    Thanks for such a useful site!

    • Lisa – it does vary a lot. I offer 40% commission on this one and would rarely participate in an affiliate program that did anything much less. Most that I see do 30-50% from what I can see.

      Some people balk at offering something this high but the way I look at it is that someone promoting it to their network and generating a sale is a sale I probably would never have had otherwise. So paying 40% for that… well I’ve not lost anything, in fact I’ve gained 60% of a sale PLUS have that person’s contact details for next time I sell something.

  14. Thanks for the insight, and I look forward to more behind-the-scenes advice as this launch unfolds fully. I am currently in the early stages of developing my first e-book for my marriage site, so this info is timely and helpful.

  15. Darrin,

    Good luck with the new book. I’m toying with the idea for a dog food recipe ebook. I’m wondering whether there are transactional charges with E-junkie, that are not mentioned up front.


    • good question emumbert1 – the ‘hidden cost’ with e-junkie is that they charge you to send emails to those who’ve bought your product. So if you want to do a followup promotion you need to pay them for that.

      However – you can set up e-junkie to signup anyone who buys your product with your newsletter list on Aweber (they do it for other newsletter services too). So when someone buys my ebook they are immediately sent an email asking them to opt into my newsletter. I find over 90% of people are doing this so I’m not likely to need to promote anything in future via e-junkie.

  16. Why e-junkie and not payloadz? What is the advantage? I see most pro bloggers use e-junkie

  17. I really prefer E-Junkie for placing a “buy” option over my blog, mainly when i am going to sell an ebook… :)

  18. @ Justine Smith

    If you have 400 visitors a day, certainly some of them would be interested enough to download your eBook for free … whether or not they’ll pay for it is another question.

    Since your blog is fairly new, perhaps you could “set the hook” with a free, small, eBook now and then sell a larger one later. If you receive some positive feedback from the smaller eBook, you could use these in your promotion of the second book. Also, a subset of those who downloaded the first free eBook would probably buy the second, if the price point was right.

    I don’t sell my eBooks, but I have a couple of fiction eBooks that I give away to repeat visitors and RSS subscribers. The books contain about 20K words, half of which are contained within a story that makes its debut within the eBook. Even though I don’t promote the existence of the books very much (and in fact never promote the URL, preferring to have visitors stumble across the location – it is “hidden in plain sight”, as it were), the book does manage to get itself downloaded :) You have a larger reader base than mine, so I’m sure yours would be downloaded even more :)

  19. Excellent post. I have considered writing an Ebook but my blog is too young at the moment. However, I have bookmarked this article because it has some really good tips for when I finally get started.

    Also, I think it is KEY that you got it professional proof-read. I am sure it is a great product. I have a small interest in photography and I will definitely consider a purchase in the near future. I also think it will make a good holiday gift for some of my photography friends.

    Good luck with everything!

  20. First time I’ve looked at DPS, actually.

    Nice blog, shame about the ugly domain name?

    • Needmoney – DPS is my living proof that while it’s great to get a pretty domain name that you can build something profitable and with a great brand without one :-)

  21. Darren, I thank your generosity in sharing a step by step approach of the sale of your e-book. It’s really encouraging and definitely do-able for a newbie.


  22. Congrats on the launch Darren.

  23. Darren,

    Congrats on the launch!

    And thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m in the process of writing my first ever E-book and have found the task daunting. But…that’s what its like for any new venture. And I plan to enjoy the ride. Thanks for the tidbits that make the trip worthwhile:)

  24. It is interesting to see how it works for you D. I am planning to make an ebook but It cost no cent for my blog readers since I’m new here on the field. Your story inspires me. Enjoyed reading this post:-)

  25. Congrats , I really appreciate your efforts Darren. Best of luck in your efforts. I was really searching for such a worthy e-book. Thanks you solved my problem.

  26. Hi Darren

    Thanks for sharing the details of your launch.

    I’m a big fan of e-junkie also and would recommend anyone checking them out.

  27. Hi Darren, thanks for this! This is great, and good timing. I’m currently planning my first e-book, this advice will help.

  28. Darren, I thank your generosity in sharing a step by step approach of the sale of your e-book. It’s really encouraging and definitely do-able for a newbie.

  29. Have bookmarked this one! My bookmarks are getting a bit full actually as I think an ebook is the most logical way to try to get an income from my blog. The only problem is first you need to write the book!

    Calling in favours sounds nice. Am off to RT this in the hope that you will return the favour for me one day if I ever get to this stage:) Cheeky, eh?

  30. Welcome to the business of information publishing – really is a great way to not only generate income from your blog, but to leverage your effort.

    We have 12 ebooks on the market – one of which has been selling steadily now for almost 10-years (launched in 2000). At the time I had no idea that it would sell beyond a year or so…for the 6-8 weeks of effort I put in and a few days each year to update, this is largely passive income.

    The key is to center in on a topic that is really intriguing to the readers you serve – a deeply held, emotional topic where they have big dreams or desires to be, have, do or become something they are not today. That could be overcoming limitations or getting ahead.

    Finally, the process of writing the ebook doesn’t have to be that onerous – start with collecting questions around your topic, then organizing them in an order that makes sense for the ultimate outcome you are helping your reader achieve.

    Once you have that outline done, it is just a matter of answering each question – adding in some case studies or personal experience and there you have Edition 1.


  31. Hi there Darren – and congratulations on launching you new ebook! It looks incredibly well designed and put together. Nice work!

    I didn’t find your affiliate program over at e-junkie, though. Is it not yet available?

  32. Darren – Preston’s question on how to enforce the copyright and not have people sending or copying your ebook…

    1. You are correct Darren – this mostly does not happen and where it does, you can’t really prevent it anyway, but there are a few things you can do…

    2. Put a bold, clear Copyright statement in the front of your ebook telling people they cannot share, copy, resell or reprint any portion of your ebook. With so many reprint rights and private label rights ebooks flying around these days some people get confused and lump it in with the others. Believe it or not, I actually had a lawyer reselling one of my ebooks for a month without permission – when I confronted him, he was embarrassed thinking it was part of a reprint rights package he had purchased – he took it down immediately.

    3. Add value beyond your ebook. When someone downloads your ebook they should be placed automatically into an autoresponder sequence (most payment processors can do this). What you want to do is develop some value added pieces to your bundle – a few audio interviews or an audio transcription of the ebook, added checklists or assignments, summary tip sheets, a video or two, a private forum (even if it is not paid – it can be private for your customers), etc… that they get access to in addition to the ebook. That way, not all of the value is in the ebook, it is shared among the ebook and a password protected access.


  33. Very Good and informative post. I like ur blog and save it also. Keep i up. Thanks for sharing.

  34. Congrats Mr. Darren
    I will check the e-book, because the information is very useful.

  35. I’m hoping to launch my first e-book early next year and I’ve found some very helpful ideas here. Never occured to me to use EJunkie.

  36. I thought most professional Bloggers would consider Clickbank as their distributor when it comes to eBooks.
    However, you mention that it only costs $5.00 to set-up with E-junkie.

    I guess I will consider E-Junkie to sell my ebook when it’s completed.

  37. Thanks and good luck with the book

  38. Darren, I would have been more interested in the production of the eBook, the software used, how to minimise pirating and so on. Also the criteria for selecting the shopping cart and vendor. I would hope that this is not the same vendor that only allows PayPal which does not work for many folks – reference my post and that of others on the launch of your paid forums,

    Furthermore if you run a photography school, why use images taken from the Internet and not yours to illustrate your expertise on the subject matter. Would have given the eBook more authority and professionalism in my view.

    Finally you night consider developing your own videos – http://www.luminous-landscape.com/ is an excellent starting off point with loads of free information and tutorials as well as videos by photography masters that you can purchase and download. This site is for advanced photographers. Your site appears to be aimed at newbies.

  39. Congrats man for the launch

  40. Get blog, loved the design. Some Great idea food for thought

  41. Congrats Darren! I’m thinking of e-book launch in the nearest future also. So thanks for information

  42. Great blog! Some of your tips really helped me.

  43. Wow, Darren, thank you so so much for your time responding to me and the others who had questions. It’s much appreciated and the example you gave me was very encouraging.

  44. Cool have to follow this great step

  45. thanks for the insiders view and giving a blueprint of how to do this on our own.

  46. thanks for the insiders view and giving a blueprint of how to do this on our own.

  47. Congrats man for the launch :)

  48. I see you put the message out in many different places. This is something I’m learning, that when you launch a product, you want to have built up different platforms where you communicate with people so that you have plenty of people to tell about your product.

  49. Hey Darren,
    Can we get an update?
    Would like to know the total so far.

  50. That’s it, you have inspired me … time to write must go!

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